UNICEF warns 1.3m children risk malnutrition
Agency says Nigeria has largest caseload of IDPs in Africa
Nearly 1.3 million children displaced by Boko Haram insurgency across Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Nigeria are at risk of malnutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned yesterday.
According to the organisation, Nigeria has the largest caseload of internally displaced persons in Africa and one of the largest globally.
The findings of a survey conducted by the UNICEF were shared with African leaders on the Day of the African Child, which is marked every year on June 16 by the African Union (AU).
The theme for the Day of the African Child this year is “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights.”
“Of the more than 2.4 million people displaced from their homes by the conflict, more than half are children. More than a quarter of the displaced are five years old or younger,” the Fund said.
The UN agency said children, who have been displaced, are at increased risk of abuse, violence and exploitation, as well as abduction and recruitment by armed groups.
Also, the Neo Black Movement (NBM) of Africa has on the occasion urged world peace and solidarity, enjoining its members and humanity “to eschew all forms of hatred, bitterness and rancour.”
A statement by its National Head (worldwide), Chief Felix Kupa, said that “40 years ago today, an event happened in Soweto that changed the lives of so many families and helped inspire the birth of NBM, the greatest Black African movement today.”
He added: “The death of hundreds of men, children and women still strengthens our collective resolve everyday to secure our freedom from any form of oppression today. They demonstrated and lost their lives for us to be free.”
Similarly, worried by the rising cases of conflicts and displaced persons in Africa as well as increasing incidence of malnutrition and as part of activities to mark the day, youths charged African leaders to do more to end conflicts in the region.
Two-thirds of the nearly 86,000 youths surveyed in a recent mobile-based pan-African poll conducted in nine African countries including Nigeria, released yesterday, on the Day of the African Child, said that African leaders are not doing enough to stop conflicts in Africa.
Using a messaging tool called U-Report, the short survey was sent to 1.4 million mobile users in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Senegal, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Cameroun and Guinea, from May 18 to June 1, 2016.
African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in a statement, said: “It is so crucial, and even urgent for the leaders to heed the voices of the youth, if we must silence the guns by 2020, as set in our Agenda 2063. This is flagship project to which the youth must also recognise their role and take their responsibility.”
UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said: “The lives of millions of children and their families are disrupted, upended or destroyed by conflict every year in Africa. This survey speaks to every child’s right to be heard and gives African youth an opportunity to express their hopes for the future of their continent.”
At an event organised yesterday by the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) to mark the day, the Deputy Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Kunle Oluomo called on government at all levels to ensure the protection of the rights of the children.
Oluomo noted that the crises and conflicts facing many African countries are great hindrances to the development of the African child.
The lawmaker who spoke on the theme, “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights,” stressed the need for the education of every child, especially the girl child, saying that the success of any society depends largely on the education of the child.
Oluomo lamented the plight of the African child, especially in times of conflicts and crisis, disclosing that the Boko Haram insurgence attacks in the NorthEast had exposed a lot of children and women to dangers. He also decried the high level of violence such as rape, kidnapping and abuse of children in the country. He appealed to government to rise up to its responsibilities and do more in protecting the child against social vices.